Merleau-Ponty, Maurice

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice

(mōrēs` mĕrlō`-pôNtē`), 1908–61, French philosopher. He graduated (1931) from the École normale supérieure, Paris, and after World War II taught at the Univ. of Lyon, the Sorbonne, and the Collége de France. Merleau-Ponty stressed the primacy of perception as a mode of access to the real, but, unlike many phenomenologists, he affirmed the reality of a world that transcends our consciousness of it. In his studies of perception he laid emphasis on the physical and the biological (or vital) as levels of conceptualization that preconditioned all mental concepts. This emphasis led him to a sympathy for Karl Marx's historical materialism, although he differed from most Marxists in regarding history as irreducibly plural and contingent. No single movement could claim to be the unique agency of the historical process. His study of perception also laid stress on the stratum of socially founded meanings that to him was intermediary between pure individual subjectivity and the objective existence of things. Since language was the chief repository of these meanings, he became interested, particularly in his later work, in the role of language in perception. Merleau-Ponty's works include The Structure of Behavior (1942, tr. 1963), Phenomenology of Perception (1945, tr. 1962), Humanism and Terror (1947, tr. 1969), Sense and Nonsense (1948, tr. 1964), Adventures of the Dialectic (1955, tr. 1973), and Signs (1960, tr. 1964).


See studies by A. Rabil (1967), J. O'Neill (1970), and K. H. Whiteside (1989).

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice


Born Mar. 14, 1908, in Rochefort-sur-Mer; died May 4, 1961, in Paris. French idealist philosopher of the phenomenological school; some of MerleauPonty’s views had much in common with existentialism.

Merleau-Ponty studied philosophy at the Ecole Normale Superieure, where he worked closely with J.-P. Sartre (breaking with him in 1953) and with J. Hippolyte. He was also influenced by Gestalt psychology. In 1945, Merleau-Ponty became a professor at the University of Lyon and later at the Sorbonne (1949) and at the College de France (1952).

While working on the unpublished writings of E. Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, Merleau-Ponty arrived at a broader interpretation of intentionality as a characteristic not only of consciousness but of man’s whole relation to the world. Accordingly, he introduced the concept of preconscious (bodily) existence, which is sentient, because it is open to the world and not shut up in itself as a thing is. All of man’s being is the realization and revelation of his existence, which is accomplished by the infinite dialogue of the subject with the world. The subject and the world are the two poles of a single phenomenal field, in which the subject is always situationally bound and therefore can never be completely revealed and known.

In some of his works, Merleau-Ponty was critical of communism and attacked dialectical materialism.


Phénoménologie de la perception. Paris, 1945.
Humanisme et terreur: Essai sur le problème communiste. Paris, 1947.
Sens et nonsens. Paris, 1948.
Les Aventures de la dialectique, 16th ed. Paris, 1955.
Signes. Paris, 1960.
Eloge de la philosophic et autres essais. Paris, 1965.
La Structure du comportement, 6th ed. Paris, 1967.
La Prose du monde. Paris, 1969.
Le Visible et /’invisible. Paris, 1971.


Korolev, E. E. “Zlokliucheniia antimarksizma.” Voprosy filosofii, no. 4, 1956.
Kuznetsov, V. N. Frantsuzskaia burzhuaznaia filosofiia 20 v. Moscow, 1970. Pages 285–94.
De Waelhens, P. A. Une Philosophic de rambigui’te, 3rd ed. Paris, 1968.
Les Temps modernes, 1961, vol. 17, nos. 184–85.
Kwant, R. C. The Phenomenological Philosophy of Merleau-Ponty. Pittsburgh, 1963.
Kwant, R. C. From Phenomenology to Metaphysics. Pittsburgh, 1966.
Langan, T. Merleau-Ponty !$• Critique of Reason. New Haven-London, 1966.


References in periodicals archive ?
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice 1968 The Visible and the Invisible (followed by Working Notes), translated by Alphonso Lingis.